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Stasi | John Feffer
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Dealing with the Stasi

The great riddle of German reunification involves the two dogs that didn’t bark. The first dog was the Stasi, the East German secret service, which did so little to prevent the demonstrations of 1989 from bringing down Party chief Erich Honecker, the Berlin Wall, and then the entire Communist regime. The second dog was the East German people, who exacted so little revenge against the Stasi...
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Countering Sexism in East Germany

In March 1990, just after the first and only democratic elections in East Germany, I visited the House of Democracy in East Berlin. In this building on Friedrichstrasse, at a prime location near Unter den Linden and the luxurious Grand Hotel, were located all of the major civic initiatives that had ushered democracy into the country. “Ushered” is the operative word here, for these groups did...
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The Largest Human Rights Movement in the East

We think of human rights movements in terms of voice: the voices of protest, the voices of the marginalized, the voices of the silenced. In East-Central Europe prior to 1989, the faces of the human rights movement were the signatories of Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia, the dissident writers in Hungary, the Solidarity trade union leaders in Poland, the renegade Party members in Romania. Roland Jahn...
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The File

Once, at the request of my employer at the time, I filed a Freedom of Information Request to get his FBI file. It took a while, but eventually an envelope arrived from the U.S. government. My boss eagerly opened it up. A great deal of the materials had been blacked out. On some pages only one or two words appeared floating in the sea of black. He was disappointed by all this “redaction.” He...
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Creating a Parallel Society

One of the key contributions of the Polish opposition movement was its concept of living “as if.” At a certain point in the 1970s, dissidents like Adam Michnik and Jacek Kuron proposed to create a parallel society in which people acted as if they were already living in a democratic society. They would act openly, not covertly, and try to gradually expand the sphere of democratic action. If...
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